Minor in Social Justice and Social Policy

The definition of justice in a dictionary

The social justice and social policy (SJSP) minor links an academic curriculum with the university’s commitment to social justice. The program provides a common place for students in all disciplines to engage with issues of justice and equity.

The Social Justice and Social Policy Program brings together an unusually broad spectrum of faculty and curriculum—combining the academic perspectives of the arts and sciences departments with professional expertise from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. You are encouraged to explore policy areas in concrete detail, focused variously on particular groups (children, the elderly, people with disabilities) or particular services (health care, income support).

Students can also select courses that deal thematically with problems of social equity (poverty, discrimination), as well as courses that approach social justice from historical, philosophical and comparative perspectives. Key elements of the program include a foundation course, a capstone course and a research-based internship in a social policy setting.

This program does not seek to promote a particular ideological agenda, but rather to spark creative thinking about complex social problems. It carries the search for norms and principles into the wider arena of practical experience. By providing models for critical reflection, it challenges students to articulate their own value commitments in a spirit of constructive debate.

Academics and Research


A central component of the program is the internship, which can involve hands-on social justice research or take the form of a community-based experience guided and deepened by participation in the associated classroom course. A number of funding opportunities are available to support unpaid social justice-related internships.

Recent internship placements include Alternatives for Community and Environment, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Facing History and Ourselves, Disability Law Center, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Rosie's Place, the NAACP's Washington Bureau and the Massachusetts State Senate president's office.

Advocacy for Policy Change

Advocacy for Policy Change, a course taught by Melissa Stimell, addresses theories, skills, networks and key players in the reform of public policy. It focuses on policy change at the statehouse level, and participants interact with elected officials and community organizations to advance key legislation affecting social welfare, health, education and economic justice. Students assist legislative sponsors in promoting change, taking into account policy analysis, community impact, legal restraints and political possibilities.

Events and Networking

Grant Funding

The Brenda Meehan Social Justice-in-Action Grant Program grant program provides support for student-organized events that bring together academic and activist perspectives on one or more social justice issues. Past awards have supported a weekend-long campus visit by Rabbi Steve Greenberg, the openly gay ordained Orthodox rabbi featured in the award-winning documentary "Trembling Before G-d"; an open forum on international labor practices; and a workshop run by Megan Jo Andelloux, director of the Sexuality Learning and Resource Center in Providence, R.I., which accompanied a student-led performance of "The Vagina Monologues." In 2010, a special round of Meehan grants supported projects that furthered the university's efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.

'DEIS Impact

'DEIS Impact is a weeklong festival of exploring social justice on campus and around the world. The festival highlights 40+ different events put on by students, clubs and organizations, faculty, and department that explore and advance social justice initiatives.

'DEIS Impact has built on the passionate discussion and action already happening at Brandeis. The festival of social justice has allowed the campus community to celebrate and explore the many ways people can work together to change the world, and look ahead to what still needs to be done.

'DEIS Impact is a unique collaboration between the Brandeis Undergraduate Student Union and the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, with support from the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice.

Careers and Alumni

Awards and Recognition

Health Policy

Becky Sniderman ’10 was accepted into the nationally competitive Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program. Sniderman's work with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton extended her senior thesis research on race and health care disparities in Mississippi in the 1950s and ’60s.

Health Advocacy

Katy Agule ’09 was recognized by the American Cancer Society with a 2008 Excellence in Advocacy Award.

Community Housing

Aaron Finegold ’09 received a hopeFound Heroes Award for his work with the hopeFound organization, which provides programs and services that help homeless men and women achieve self-sufficiency and secure permanent housing.

Alumni Network

SJSP encourages its students to connect with the many Brandeis alumni pursuing social justice careers.